Team India still alive and well

Inland paddling
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Mark R
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Team India still alive and well

Post by Mark R »

Greetings from Shimla, the old British Raj summer capital. The team are having a bit of RnR before heading back to Delhi. They all seem to be pretty shattered, but not completely broken.

The idea was to find mellower stuff to suit an intermediate group - unfortunately my memory from previous visits hasn't always been perfect so we've generally found ourselves self-supporting on Grade 4 and 4+ rivers with a little more ooompff to them than was promised in the brochure. The good news is that the rivers have been of great quality, the team have paddled really well and that we seem to have pretty much the same number in the group that we started with.

Not been on solids for over a week now. India, gotta love it.

Back on Sunday night.

Mark Rainsley.


PS TOP TIP - check your shorts for scorpions.

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Lancs_lad
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Post by Lancs_lad »

PS TOP TIP - check your shorts for scorpions
Sounds interesting!

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cliffhangermatt
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Post by cliffhangermatt »

Good to hear that everyone is OK (apart from your tummys).
Matt Floyd

Reverse hanging draws.......eeeh?

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solids n liquids

Post by shalabhgahlaut »

Wow Mark
You manage to find both, again and again. Cannot wait to know what the team has been upto!

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Post by Tom_Laws »

Good work. Looking forward to the shots and elaborate stories.

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ol
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Post by ol »

An absolutely fantastic and unforgettable trip!
Big, big thanks go to Mark for organising such a great experience for such a large number of willing sheep......
I reckon all of us pushed our comfort (and perhaps fitness) levels to a higher strata...

I feel slightly guilty and feeble as perhaps the only one of us who caved in and is having a day off work today, and me being Team Virgin too, leaving for our scheduled flight from Delhi at least a full 6 hours after Team Gulf Air and yet arriving about a half hour before them at LHR. Poor, poor team Gulf..... :-/

So, the swim count?
Well, lets only say that I graciously volunteered my help to bolster the tally a little, lets also say that the first and the last 'OBE' ('Out-of-boat-experience') of the 2 week trip, was performed by the very same distinguished member of our group. I will allow this person to name themselves(or perhaps another member may enjoy this)

Amazing time, nigh-on a 1000 piccies to edit, need to sleep some more, and gorge myself on Britains blandest possible food.

OL

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Post by Chas C »

ol wrote: Team Virgin too, leaving for our scheduled flight from Delhi at least a full 6 hours after Team Gulf Air and yet arriving about a half hour before them at LHR. Poor, poor team Gulf..... :-/

OL
OL we then had to wait another 2+ hrs to get our kit offloaded, and I'm knackered (at work - sort of).

I second OL's comment about Marks organisation and team management, great effort, great trip, fantastic paddling. Forget the rest of the world, go to India, its no more expensive, with a fantastic variety of paddling.

Edit: and in hindsight book early and fly Virgin

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The Drowned Fish
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Post by The Drowned Fish »

Firstly thanks to Mark for organising us. Secondly thanks to everyone else for making the trip so fun and friendly.

Really good paddling athough I think being a newbie to India I was it's taken a back seat in my mind to the shear crazyness of the country, nothing had prepared my for the experience.

Scariest moment on the whole trip has to of been the following words coming out of Ol's mouth... "Shit, Mark's just fallen off the cliff!"

Best river, Lower Tons or maybe the Nandakini (sp?) gorge or maybe the Sutlej... oh okay they were all good.
PS TOP TIP - check your shorts for scorpions.
Yes - I'm still a bit upset by the entire incident. Apologies to all for "screaming like a girl*" when I discovered it!
So, the swim count?
The swim count for the group was really embarrassingly high so I’ll let everyone 'fess up to their own. To my shame I had one but probably deserved to have more.
Edit: and in hindsight book early and fly Virgin
Really is the only way to do it. Sorry for looking so smug when you appeared in baggage reclaim in Heathrow 30 minutes after us despite leaving India 6 1/2 hours earlier.

Again thanks to all for a great two weeks.

Cheers
Simon

* Apologies for the expression.

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Post by hodgkins »

Definately the best trip I've ever been on. A great group of paddlers, the rivers were fantastic and the country is amazing - it has to be seen to be believed. It's not every day you get to walk to the top of a mountain and spank monkeys (with big sticks). I wouldn't recommend stepping backwards off cliffs - it's quite scary for everyone!

I'm really pleased to be part of an exclusive club of staying 'firm' throughout the trip. Having heard that giardia can lay dormant for weeks, I'm not being too smug yet. It was my main concern of the trip but with reasonable precautions I seem to have got away with it despite eating curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner for 16 days!

I'm also really pleased to be a member of another equally exclusive club of not swimming over the 12 days of paddling (take note Martyn Read). With 12 paddlers, most of them including me being pushed to their limits, the swim count was always going to be quite high.... I think 22 is pretty good. The highest was 8 on one day - I'm sure someone else can remember what it was we were on. The rescues all went really smoothly which was good too. I don't think any kit was broken over the 2 weeks either - well apart from Mark ripping off the grab handle on Claire's boat.

It was my first trip with multi-day descents which actually went really well. It took a little getting used to the weight of the boat and luckily there were no portages, although having a loaded boat does help you decide to run rapids! Dave S learnt the hard way what happens if you don't close a dry bag properly and swim...

Looking forward to checking out the photos.

A big thank you to Mark for organising the trip.
Dave

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Post by thetangoman »

Sounds like you guys had an amazing trip - looking forward to hearing the stories and seeing the pics.
hodgkins wrote:I'm also really pleased to be a member of another equally exclusive club of not swimming over the 12 days of paddling (take note Martyn Read).
Dave, I thought you were on a mission to swim in every country you paddle? ;-)

Andy

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tizereyes
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Post by tizereyes »

Yes an amazing trip – people, paddling, scenery, Indian craziness - thanks for herding us Mark.

I’m actually functioning at work after getting through my front door at midnight last night. I think tomorrow will pay…

I’m still stunned that we managed 12 days on the river on a 17 day trip.
Yes I fess up, 3 swims were mine but I ain’t cryin’ – this trip blew my previous paddling experience out of the water.
The highest was 8 on one day - I'm sure someone else can remember what it was we were on.
It was the 2nd day on the Tons - you know the one that was supposed do be the rest day gd2/3!!

Things I learnt:
• It’s remarkably easy to back loop a loaded boat
• Beware picking up firewood on a beach; it might be a leg bone.
• Indian driving on mountain roads still petrifies me
• I’ve paddled a river that Wheeler passed up on!
• 12 days of paddling broke me, but the curry didn’t even touch the edges
• Being cheered off onto a river by an entire school is great
• Never believe it if any of these comments come from Mark’s mouth: ‘there’s a bridge round the corner’ (there wasn't), ‘this river is only gd2/3, it’ll be a nice rest day’ (we had 8 swims), ‘this section of river should only take a couple of hours’ (it took 6 hours)
• Shrink-o-vision is dangerous.
• Being sat on top of kayaks, on top of a minibus, at the edge of a gorge and watching Mark fall off the cliff isn’t a good thing if you’re scared of heights.
• Indian plumbing has amazing antigravity properties

How long will it be before I stop waving at everyone on the banks of the river?

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Post by Grumpy Fisherman »

Gah! I can't wait until August!

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Post by MikeB »

I want to hear about a) Mark's "management" and b) falling off cliffs.

Sounds like it was wonderful - pics awaited - Mike

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Post by Lancs_lad »

Sounds excellent!

Did you all know each other before you went on the trip? Always fancied India but its getting to the point where my travelling ambitions are exceeding that of my current paddling group of friends. How do you get invited on such a trip? Or could you recommend a tour operator that does similar to your trip?

Looking forward to the pics!

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Post by Mark R »

MikeB wrote:I want to hear about a) Mark's "management"
"Stop whingeing and get on with it."
MikeB wrote:and b) falling off cliffs.
Rather exciting. After climbing out of the Mandakini River gorge, I was looking up at the boat-tying on one of the buses. I said, "Tsk, tsk, who tied thaaaaaa..."

The "thaaaaa...." was me stepping backwards off a cliff.

Image

Thankfully, there was about 15 foot of loose earth to slide down, allowing me to grab some dry scrub just before I slid off the vertical bit.

Don't try this at home. And certainly not in India, where they don't have safety fences.
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Post by Graham Bland »

If my memory serves me correctly (and it rarely does) - the only time we used a throw line on the trip was to retrieve Mark from said cliff (discounting the use of lines for stringing tarps etc.)

Great trip Mark - thanks for putting it all together
Graham

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Post by Mark R »

Quick trip summary follows - the others will no doubt pipe up if I've got anything wrong.

I've had a great time, I really enjoyed the paddling and the company.

Plan - a trip to paddle non-heroic Himalayan rivers in areas little-frequented by either paddlers or tourists. Group was quite big - 12 - purely selected on social grounds, a bunch of reasonably experienced paddlers who could get on together without egos or sulks.

This all seemed to work quite well, although as noted the paddling was generally harder than perhaps originally intended. Interestingly, the rivers where the swim count was racked up tended to be not the hardest rivers, but the longest - I think everyone was used to/expecting the 5km wonders that you get in the Alps. India rivers just keep on going!

Saturday - landed in Delhi, met the two buses and drivers we'd booked, gathered team from various airlines. Travel hours north to Rishikesh, and launched on the Ganges, big Grade 3+ waves to warm up. Everyone paddling half asleep and jetlagged.

Sunday - Drove up the Ganges valley to where it is formed of two rivers (Bhagarathi and Alaknanda). A late start and tired group meant that we arrived at the top of the Alaknanda valley just too late to paddle. Stayed in a surprisingly pleasant hotel at Karnprayag.

Monday - paddled an Alaknanda trib, the Pindar. Beautiful grade 3 and 4 rapids, blue water. Towards the end, my group (we usually divided into two groups) got detained by a group of Park officials - a bit of a stand-off lasting several days began. Even though we had prior arranged permission (and didn't officially need it anyway) a series of Park officials saw us and had dollar signs roll in front of their eyes. Vaibhav at Aquaterra (whom we hired the buses from) got on the case by making a few phone calls on our behalf, but the message was slow to trickle through to local bureaucrats and petty officials.

Tuesday - got held up in the morning by dozens of Park officials turning up at our hotel to extract a hefty 'official fine' from us. Then we headed up to Chamoli where we loaded boats and headed off down the upper Alaknanda. This proved to be fairly feisty Grade 4+ but everyone paddled/portaged carefully and there were no problems. Because we'd been delayed, we had to camp quite close to civilisation and - you guessed it - another official turned up demanding payment. At this point my patience had run out and he was given short shrift.

Wednesday - we paddled more of the Alaknanda, which is quite excellent, much better than I recall from paddling it during the 2000 monsoon. There were loads of big Grade 4 rapids, either of the classic 'big water' wave and hole type, or more technical stuff in occasional gorges. We camped at a quieter place this time, and were entertained by hundreds of monkeys doing Jackass-style stunts. Really.

Thursday - last day self-supporting on the Alaknanda. I estimated that we had 1-2 hours left, it turned out to take all day! Highlight was a rapid where the whole river raged through a long series of waves and holes, before squeezing down a gap a few metres wide into a sheer-walled gorge, overlooked by a huge temple. Dramatic stuff. We finished at Rudraprayag (confluence with the Mandakini River) in stifling heat. A major dam is being built some miles downstream, goodbye Alaknanda ... we hotelled up the Mandakini valley.

Friday - the Mandakini River, a new one on me. Very pretty but rather smelly in places! It was Grade 3-4 for miles, then a few folk got off and the rest of us ventured into a deep gorge which turned out to have some good rapids up to Grade 4+. Afterwards, I fell off a cliff (see above) and then we headed over the hill towards the Bhagirathi valley. This is the second of the two rivers which form the Ganges, but has been dammed - so much for India's holiest river. We stayed at New Tehri (old Tehri, which I visited in 2000, is now underwater).

Saturday - a travelling day. We looked at the Bhagirathi above the new lake but this was also being dammed. Instead we headed over the hill to the Yamuna valley, hotelling in the pleasant Alpine retreat of Barkot.

Sunday - the upper Yamuna, Grade 4+-5. This little creek is probably the hardest river we paddled, and a few folk sat it out. Most people walked out exhausted after the second of three gorges, but three of us finished all three. We then headed towards the Tons valley, staying somewhere or other whose name I forget.

Monday - the upper Tons from the confluence with the Rupin River. My memory told me this was easy, but we found powerful Grade 4+ with volume and gradient. The weather turned uncharacteristically grim too, with thunder, lightning and rain (we saw a bit more of this in the following days). Good stuff. We camped by the river.

Tuesday - the lower Tons from Mori to Tiuni, what an epic! As I recalled it as being 'easy' and 'flat', I imagined that 20 miles wouldn't take long. My memory turned out to be hugely wrong however, there was an endless array of technical rapids ranging from Grade 4-4+, including one big 5. There were 8(!) swims on this trip as people were simply shattered by this long day. Afterwards we bused to Rohru (en route to the Sutlej valley) and stayed in the worst hotel ever. Nearby was a lovely hotel beside a Hindu temple we stayed in last time, but my memory failed me (again) and we couldn't find it)

Wednesday - travelled across to Rampur, a town on the mighty Sutlej River. I came here to paddle the upper gorges in 2006 but bottled out, so this was my first time on the river. We loaded up and launched in the afternoon downstream of Rampur, surviving a few BIG rapids before a delightful campsite.

Thursday - a long day paddling big water pool drop Grade 4. The rapids early in the day weren't always friendly, with pourovers lurking - various people walked off. The river got nicer as the day went on, with huge wave trains and some amazing gorges. We could have done another day on the Sutlej, but decided to finish the trip with some restful tourism - we bused to the hill station of Shimla, arriving late.

Friday - Shimla. Saw monkeys, temples, shops. We also saw our first non-Asian faces in over a week, giving some idea of how off the beaten track we'd been.

Saturday - long tedious drive back to Delhi. Arrived late.

Sunday - in the early hours, Claire and Liz's hotel room simultaneously exploded and flooded. We headed off to the airport at 4 am and flew home, very slowly, seemingly taking the long route.
Mark Rainsley
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tizereyes
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Post by tizereyes »

Graham Bland wrote:If my memory serves me correctly (and it rarely does) - the only time we used a throw line on the trip was to retrieve Mark from said cliff (discounting the use of lines for stringing tarps etc.)
Erm, you were obviously too far back on the eddy chain to witness my swim and self rescue into the centre of the river on the Yamuna! Hodgey saved the day with his line and got me back on top of the water...

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Post by Helen M »

OK - wee bit worried about the kingpin of the operation here.
He appears to have had some memory loss(es).

Understandable I suppose - given old age kicking in! Glad you're all back in one piece.

So - what's next? Us armchair viewers can't wait.

H - x

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Post by Mark R »

Here's a pretty random selection of pics, in no particular order and of no particular merit other than that hopefully they go some way to conveying the unique flavour of the India experience ...


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Post by MikeB »

Words fail me - -

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Mark R
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Post by Mark R »

Incidentally, this was the cliff that I fell off ...

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Myles
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Post by Myles »

Great photos. Sounds like it was a fun and eventful trip.

Feeling particuarly jealous being stuck in an office.

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Forest deptt.

Post by shalabhgahlaut »

Its quite a shame that the forest department is harassing paddlers and allowing destruction of rivers through dams. There looking at rivers as a source of revenue and western paddlers are easy prey. Im glad you guys manged to squeeze out without paying.
Kayaking is a crime!

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Post by journeyman »

Have you noticed that the chap at the top of the photo has a kayak in his top right hand.

Kayaking to religious levels?
Mark R wrote: Image
Seems as if you all had far too much fun.
Does anyone want to buy a seakayak?

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renhoek
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Ol the fish.......

Post by renhoek »

ol wrote:
So, the swim count?
Well, lets only say that I graciously volunteered my help to bolster the tally a little

OL
Good to see things tend to stay the same even after all these years, Ol.

Marc

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Greetings from The Empire

Post by superman »

Aha the truth is out! It was indeed I that both opened and closed the batting on the swim count! A total of three I am afraid to say. Mark I would like to thank you formally for going for me rather than the dehydrated noodles after that big hole outhungered me and gobbled me up. It would appear that I won the freestyle event on the Sutlej Old School Rodeo, even if there were no other competitors on that occasion!!
A little puzzle for our readers. Can anybody identify the exact species I am holding up to my head in Mark`s first picture. A little clue ,it is found between 1500 and 3000m in the Himalayas?
Excellent trip in all ways, great people, great rivers and a million thanks to Mark for accepting the challenge of herding cats and invting us.
My favourite river?The Toms. it just kept going and the scenery was magnificent.
I`m not hack in Blighty til next Friday. I`m sitting in Agra next to the Taj Mahal and the lower reached of the Yamuna, chilling out with a banana pancake! It`s a hard life.
Catchya in Devon on Saturday, Virgin Atlantic willing!
Lt. Col. Surmanator-Smythe

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Post by tizereyes »

Mark R wrote:Saturday - landed in Delhi, met the two buses and drivers we'd booked, gathered team from various airlines. Travel hours north to Rishikesh, and launched on the Ganges, big Grade 3+ waves to warm up. Everyone paddling half asleep and jetlagged.
Yeah it was grade 3+ if you missed the holes and the waves didn't break onto the top of your head. Paddling with no sleep is very very odd.
Mark R wrote:Sunday - in the early hours, Claire and Liz's hotel room simultaneously exploded and flooded.
Paddling in your bedroom is just taking the piss, but it's one way to have hysterics at 2am. Thankfully managed to grab the passport before it disappeared under several inches of water.

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Mark R
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Re: Forest deptt.

Post by Mark R »

shalabhgahlaut wrote:Im glad you guys manged to squeeze out without paying.
Kayaking is a crime!
Unfortunately, we did pay up - a hefty 5000 rupees to get rid of seemingly the entire Sanctuary management who turned up at our hotel one morning.

They didn't even say thank you.
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Mark R
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Post by Mark R »

Dave S spanks his monkey.

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